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[234]

To Mr. Lyell.

Boston, June 21, 1848.
My dear Lyell,—We are just entering on one of those political campaigns which, whatever be their mischiefs, tend more to give life and energy to our national character than anything else that comes round as a part of our republican institutions. The simple fact that the eyes of the whole population are directed to two men, and their thoughts seriously fastened on the great principles by which their government shall be administered for four years, and even the great measures it shall adopt, give a concentration and authority to public opinion that could be given, so far as I see, in no other way, and quite outweigh the disadvantages of a contest, fierce while it lasts, but never marked with physical violence, and forgotten as soon as it is over. Nothing struck me more in the last election than the absolute calm which instantly succeeded the turbulence which had filled the whole land a week before. All the storm that had been so threatening was blown off, and nothing remained but the steady power to give movement to the machinery of the State. So it will be now.


To George S. Hillard.

July 17, 1848.
My dear Hillard,—I have your note from London, and thank you very sincerely for it. Its views are discouraging enough, but not more so, I fear, than are true, though I do not agree to all its conclusions.

As to the present French and Continental convulsions, which some persons regard with favorable eyes, I can only say, that during a life of seven or eight years in Europe, I never was in any country where I should have thought it wise, or Christian, to join in any such movement. The reason is obvious. Whenever the institutions of society are so far destroyed as they were in last February and March in France, I take it to be certain that they can be reconstructed only on a military basis, and—whatever may be the nominal form of government—that the power for this reconstruction must be wielded by the will of one strong man, to whom the mass of the people will submit gladly, in order to secure their property and lives. But republics, I much fear, cannot grow on the soil of Europe; at least, not republics in the sense we give to that word. There is no nourishment for them in the present condition or past history of the nations there, and if such struggles as we have witnessed for the last sixty years are


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